Monday, January 07, 2013

3-D Printed Guns are Improving in Durability

It's time to get back at this blogging thing.

Here in the US, the national consciousness is only beginning to fade from the Newtown school shootings that occurred back in mid-December - all of which makes this next story that more poignant. I had written back in October of the efforts of a group, Defense Distributed, to print a 3-D gun from plastic. Or at least, partially from plastic. Their initial efforts were unsuccessful as the leaser of the printer found out about what was intended and promptly cancelled the lease.[1] Somehow Defense Distributed has found another option for printing their equipment and managed to make a rifle lower and managed to get off 6 rounds before it failed.

This is still a long ways from an all plastic gun, if such a beast could indeed be made. Not only would discharging the bullet be difficult using just plastic, but the bullet itself would still most likely be metal. [2] However, I've learned to never bet against progress, ingenuity and creativity when people are motivated. And gun owners are certainly motivated these days.

I am going to go off-topic here and put in my personal plea - forget changing gun control laws as a way to prevent mass-killing sprees. There are too many guns out there to ever prevent someone from getting one, and as the innovations in 3-D printing improve, access will be that much easier. In my mind, the emphasis needs to be placed on mental health, and I am really appalled by the lack of political leadership on the issue from EVERYONE in Washington D.C. Mental health issues are one of the few remaining stigmas out there, being mostly viewed as a source of shame rather than of need. Until this changes, there will always be individuals that need help but will not seek if for fear of the humiliation that will receive in public. We have moved away from Bedlam, but not anywhere near enough. This most recent shooting was a perfect opportunity for the President or a Congressional leader to speak out and propose serious change both socially and in the health care system. And yet no one took advantage of the situation. Or more correctly, they did speak out and took advantage of the situation - to talk about gun control. There was endless discussion on gun control laws and arming teachers and...and nothing, NOTHING about mental health. Truly a shame.

[1] The irony is that licensed gun manufacturers can lease the same 3-D printer from the same supplier without any issues.

[2] While rubber bullets can be lethal in unusual circumstances, they are generally not considered as such.


Anonymous said...

For those not familiar with federal regulations regarding firearms, the receiver is typically the only piece of the firearm that is considered a firearm by the government. In the case of an AR-15/M4 platform, it is the lower receiver (the part which contains the trigger and magazine well).

What this means is that if you could manufacture an AR lower receiver, all other parts for that rifle (barrel, trigger group, stock, etc.) could be ordered separately from other distributors.

There has been some recent development trying to introduce polymers into the action of a firearm. For instance, polymer casings (see,

Anonymous said...

John, I don't know what you expect society to do vis a vis mental health. While Holmes and Cho were diagnosed with some mental health issues, there was apparently no indication that Lanza had any such problem until he snapped. (His Asperger's, if he had it, would not have increased his likelihood of participating in premeditated mass killing.) But should the government make mental health treatment and even medication compulsory? Forget the natural rights that one has over his/her own person. Forget that people who suffer mental illness are much more likely to be victims of violent crimes than perpetrators. Because of the difficulty of identifying the mentally ill, let alone the potentially violent mentally ill, more mental health treatment in America wouldn't have stopped Lanza. And how is casting blame for this tragedy on mental illness, rather than on guns, going to help ease the stigma associated with psychiatric conditions?
I hope you don't take my tone as overly combative. I do agree that with 300 million guns in the country, gun control measures are unlikely to have much effect. I also recognize that mass shootings are still extremely rare and that many more people are tragically killed in gun accidents than in random violence. I think that stiff taxes accompanied by tax incentives for guns with safety features (i.e. grip recognition) could drive the market towards life-saving features becoming standard.

John said...

Anonymous @ 7:42

I certainly don't take your tone as overly combative. I am at a loss to more fully expand on what can be done - there are plenty of experts and I don't even begin to know enough as to proper suggest what options to explore. Maybe we as a country don't either, but this would have been an excellent chance to start the discussion. I believe it was Rahm Emmanuel, Obama's Chief of Staff who said that you should never let the opportunities in a crisis go to waste (not a verbatim quote), but that is what happened here.

Somehow we have to get past the whole idea of people with mental illness as being "loony", "wacko", "crazy"...We have done it in the past (albeit, not entirely successfully) with women, religions and racial minorities, now we need to continue with those suffering from mental illness.